LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2012) — In celebration of the University of Kentucky's upcoming sesquicentennial in 2015, the 23rd of 150 weekly installments on the university looks at the history of the most photographed building on campus, Memorial Hall.
For many years a campaign had been carried on throughout Kentucky for funds with which to erect a building to serve as a memorial to UK students, alumni and faculty who served in World War I. Contributions came in sporadically, and at one time consideration was given to using these funds in building a gymnasium and a stadium, a plan which was not executed. Finally it was decided that an auditorium would be built.
The UK auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1,100, which came to be known as Memorial Hall, was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1929, with Under Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley as the principal speaker.
The front of Memorial Hall is marked by the tower and a Corinthian-columned porch. It was, at the time, the most dramatic building on campus and it was destined to become the most photographed. The university supplemented private contributions and built the auditorium in a New England church style. With its stage and pipe organ, Memorial Hall filled the long-standing need for a facility for concerts, lectures and some activities of the music department (now the UK School of Music).
The Greek semi-circular amphitheater built behind Memorial Hall, was used for concerts, motion pictures and other programs during the warm months. It was a standard feature of campus beautification in American colleges of the 1920s. UK's amphitheater is still used today, most notably for the popular "We Are UK" event presented as part of K Week.
This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections. Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
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